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After Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein addressed Senators in a closed briefing on Capitol Hill Thursday, several lawmakers made comments to the press suggesting there may now be a criminal investigation over Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.
“I always believed that a counterintelligence investigation would not need a special prosecutor. A criminal investigation might,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the first to speak to reporters staked outside the briefing room.
Rosenstein appointed ex-FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to handle the entire Russia investigation Wednesday and answered questions from senators on the decision to do so and the future of that investigation.
Graham’s comment set off a speculation among the reporters that this meant a criminal investigation was now underway, but he downplayed that conclusion. Asked plainly, Graham responded, “I never got to ask a question specifically about that, but the takeaway I have is that everything he said is that you need to do this investigation as if it may be a criminal investigation.”
“I think the biggest legal change is that Mr. Mueller is going to proceed with the idea of a criminal investigation versus a counterintelligence investigation,” Graham added.
After several senators from each party were reluctant to elaborate on Graham’s appraisal, Sen. Richard Blumethal (D-CT) went much further, plainly stating that, in his view, “Bob Mueller is doing a criminal investigation. The special prosecutor is doing an investigation of criminal allegations.”
“There is mounting evidence of obstruction of justice,” Blumenthal said, avoiding a specific question as to whether he was referring to President Trump or the firing of Comey.
Blumenthal was likewise vague about what, if anything, discussed at the briefing caused him to characterize the investigation as “criminal,” or even if any of the evidence he mentioned was newly revealed to him. Instead, his only clear takeaway was that he would prefer the answers he did get to be aired by Rosenstein in public before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.